Bestial Traces: Race, Sexuality, Animality

Bestial Traces: Race, Sexuality, Animality

CHRISTOPHER PETERSON
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 208
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13x05xz
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  • Book Info
    Bestial Traces: Race, Sexuality, Animality
    Book Description:

    In contemporary race and sexuality studies, the topic of animality emerges almost exclusively in order to index the dehumanization that makes discrimination possible. Bestial Traces argues that a more fundamental disavowal of human animality conditions the bestialization of racial and sexual minorities. Hence, when conservative politicians equate homosexuality with bestiality, they betray an anxious effort to deny the animality inherent in all sexuality. Focusing on literary texts by Edgar Allan Poe, Joel Chandler Harris, Richard Wright, Philip Roth, and J. M. Coetzee, together with philosophical texts by Derrida, Heidegger, Agamben, Freud, and Nietzsche, Peterson maintains that the representation of social and political others as animals can be mitigated but never finally abolished. All forms of belonging inevitably exclude some others as "beasts." Though one might argue that absolute political equality and inclusion remain desirable, even if ultimately unattainable, ideals, Bestial Traces shows that, by maintaining such principles, we exacerbate rather than ameliorate violence because we fail to confront how discrimination and exclusion condition all social relations.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-5058-5
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-21)

    On February 18, 2009, Sean Delonas published a controversial cartoon in theNew York Postdepicting two policemen shooting and killing a monkey with the caption: “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.”¹ On the adjoining page was a photo of President Obama signing this very piece of legislation into law. The proximity of these two images, together with the longstanding racist association of blacks with apes, led many readers to accuse Delonas and the newspaper of racism. In response, theNew York Postclaimed that the cartoon contained no racist intent, but was meant...

  5. 1 Aping Apes: Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and Richard Wright’s Native Son
    (pp. 22-49)

    Can an animal be held accountable for its actions? No matter how counterintuitive, this question follows inevitably from the revelation that an orangutan is the agent behind the horrific deeds perpetrated in Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.”¹ As Akira Mizuta Lippit suggests, “perhaps there has been no crime at the house on Rue Morgue, after all—only death.”² Accountability implies a capacity to reason, to comprehend right and wrong, to think causally in order to connect deeds to an authorial subject. It presupposes, in other words, a consciousness that humans have historically denied to animals. In hisDiscourse...

  6. 2 Slavery’s Bestiary: Joel Chandler Harris’s Uncle Remus Tales
    (pp. 50-73)

    Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, Tar-Baby. These names are guaranteed to elicit widely divergent responses from readers. For some, they may conjure up pleasurable childhood memories associated with Disney’sSong of the South(1946), a film that featured the Academy Award winning song, “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah,” and also inspired the “Splash Mountain” attraction at Disneyland, a log flume where visitors can vicariously experience Brer Rabbit’s descent into the “briar batch” thanks to a precipitous plunge at the ride’s climax.¹ For other readers, these names may painfully invoke America’s racial history. Indeed, the Disney film was loosely based on the collection of stories first...

  7. 3 Autoimmunity and Ante-Racism: Philip Roth’s The Human Stain
    (pp. 74-112)

    The titular “human” of Philip Roth’sThe Human Stainslides ambiguously between adjective and noun. Read as an attributive adjective,humanis an inherent characteristic ofstain(thehumanstain/the stainishuman). Read as a noun-noun combination, however, the relationship betweenhumanandstainis not attributiveper se(the humanstain/the stainoforonthe human).¹ Yet this latter reading leaves suspended the question of whether the stain is produced by the human, or if it merely belongs to the human, in which case it could have originated from an exterior source. The human’s variable grammar, its...

  8. 4 Ashamed of Shame: J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace
    (pp. 113-146)

    Notwithstanding the above epigraph’s constellation of qualifiers, we can grasp the full irony that Coetzee’s opening sentence intones only retrospectively, that is, only after witnessing the utter collapse of David Lurie’s solution: first when Soraya, the prostitute that he has been frequenting, discontinues their sexual liaisons after David learns that she is married and has two children, and second when he fills this void with one of his students, Melanie Isaacs. Readers inclined to facile moral judgment could find much fodder for their analyses here, but only at the cost of dramatically reducing the novel’s complex rendering of sexuality. Marianne...

  9. Afterword
    (pp. 147-154)

    An afterword is not precisely a conclusion, a narrative mode of resolution or closure after which nothing more could be said. Rather, an afterword grants a book a certainafterlife, surviving the book’s apparent termination by engaging a certain fantasy of a “good” or “authentic” death. An afterword thus provides a more graceful exit that refuses to allow death to have or be the final word. As I argued in chapter 4, however, a graceful death is no death at all, but rather a death that one accepts only on the condition of its ultimate redemption. Hence, to supply a...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 155-182)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 183-196)
  12. Index
    (pp. 197-200)